How legitimate is it to plunder real-life crime as grist for a fiction writer’s mill? And how long an interval should be left before picking over the bones of a murder? Celebrated crime novelists who have transmuted grim reality into uncompromising books include James Ellroy, who fictionally confronted his own mother’s murder in THE BLACK DAHLIA, and David Peace, who controversially used the Yorkshire Ripper’s reign of terror in the Red Riding Quartet. Eoin McNamee steps into this dangerous territory with ORCHID BLUE – less visceral than these predecessors, but equally provocative, as he deals with the last hanging on Irish soil …I was asked a similar question - How legitimate is it to plunder real-life crime as grist for a fiction writer’s mill? - during a panel discussion last year, when the mood seemed to suggest that such ‘plundering’ wasn’t a good idea at all, although that was in the context of Edna O’Brien’s IN THE FOREST. At the time I’d recently read ORCHID BLUE, though, so it all seemed a pretty good idea to me. And, in general, I’d tend to believe that the writer’s obligation is to write the story as well as he or she can, with all other considerations trailing in a poor second. But that’s just me.
Anyway, it was a good weekend for McNamee in terms of reviews. Jake Kerridge gave ORCHID BLUE the thumbs up in The Telegraph, and was very approving of Jane Casey’s THE BURNING into the bargain; while yours truly had reviews of ORCHID BLUE, The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman’s DR YES and Benjamin Black’s ELEGY FOR APRIL in the Sunday Independent.
Meanwhile, both McNamee’s ORCHID BLUE and THE BLUE TANGO (2001) featured Lord Justice Curran, who presided over the trial of Robert McGladdery (ORCHID BLUE) despite the fact that his own daughter was murdered 10 years previously in very similar circumstances (THE BLUE TANGO). Word is that McNamee is planning a third novel to feature Justice Curran; ‘legitimate’ or not, I for one can’t wait.